"The late spring has resulted in limited supplies," begins Kees Bijl of the Dutch potato trading, grading, and packaging company of the same name. In addition to being a broker, he is also a commission agent for the Sint Annaland Auctionhouse during the summer. "The potatoes planted around March 1 are only now being grubbed, and yields are lower than average, maybe even up to 25%. So prices are good."
According to Kees, despite irrigation going quite well in the Tholen region, the crops are not growing very well. "I'm mainly referring to the easterly and northeasterly winds blowing over the island for a long while. That air's too dry for the crop to grow well. The current sizes and few plots suitable for harvest reflect that. But the range is fairly wide; there aren't only the main Doré and Frieslander varieties available."
Variety-wise, Kees sees a shift from very floury to floury and waxy. "Doré is becoming a smaller item. Though it still has a certain base in the area, sales decline yearly. Other varieties like Colomba, Musica, Anais, and Alegria are popping up now," he says. Bijl Potatoes supplies its wide range of locally grown varieties year-round to the fruit and vegetable trade, retail packers, exporters, and the industry.
"At present, our regional potatoes are not being packed for the supermarkets yet. That's happening, to a limited degree, in the north of the country. Most of the trade happening now is toward greengrocers and market traders. And, of course, there are farm stores." Kees says early in the season, they primarily work with 20kg Alvantho crates.
"As the season progresses, starting in August, the potatoes' skins tighten. Also more loose products go out the door because growers can then use the big harvesters in the fields. Currently, the potatoes still have to be handled very carefully," Bij explains.
The current good potato prices are not only due to the lower Dutch yields but also, the earlier limited imports. "There's a clear need for Dutch product, because there are few imports putting pressure on the market. The French fries industry is still busy with the old crop, but they, too, will come calling for new potatoes from the second half of July. That market is after all much broader and larger than that of ware potatoes; something we've undoubtedly piggybacked on in recent years."
All in all, the coming weeks look promising. "Because although yields are lower, payout prices are higher and that's good for both grower and trader," Kees concludes.